Focus on the Family

The McAdams want their children back, but can former heroin addicts succeed as parents?

The lawyer for DDHS begins the November 7 hearing by telling Judge Wakefield, who is blind, how nice Tiffany looks and that David is also well-dressed. The parents take the compliments with an awkward chuckle, wondering if the implication is that they've previously shown up to court looking like a drug addict and a felon.

McGirt tells the judge the good news: Tiffany graduated from outpatient treatment the day before, and both parents are in full compliance with their treatment plans. The caseworker wants to transition the children home, starting with longer, unsupervised visits. However, before the children can go home permanently, the department wants the parents to move from their current home, since it was a neighbor who triggered Tiffany's relapse.

David and Tiffany McAdam spend some quality time 
with their sons, Martin (foreground) and David Jr.
Mark Manger
David and Tiffany McAdam spend some quality time with their sons, Martin (foreground) and David Jr.
Department of Human Services administrator Jude 
Liguori works with families in crisis.
Mark Manger
Department of Human Services administrator Jude Liguori works with families in crisis.

David asks the judge not to burden them with the stress and expense of a move. "Since I've been out [of jail], those people don't come anywhere near the house," he says. "They're scared of me. They know I hate it. They know I hate what they do, hate that they put her in that position. The whole point of making us move is relapse potential. No matter where we go, that option is there. Life is a relapse potential."

The judge decides not to require a move. "The issue is a drug-free environment. If the family can't provide that where they live, they know the consequences. Reunification does loom as a realistic goal, but if treatment plans fail, adoption will hover as a concurrent alternative." He sets a review hearing for three months hence.

David walks out of the courtroom wearing a bewildered expression. That was it? How could the judge extend his son's case another three months, six months past the year deadline? His attorney and caseworker explain that DDHS prefers to move children home gradually so as not to disrupt their lives too dramatically. They say that it's likely that one or both children could come home before the next hearing. When DDHS feels the parents are ready, it will ask for the judge's approval to move the kids home. For now, the parents will get Martin for a full day on Saturdays and David Jr. for half a day. If that goes well, they'll move on to overnight stays.

Tiffany and David stand outside the courthouse, exhaling long drags from their cigarettes. Even though they have to wait, it looks as if they are going to get their happy ending. The scary thing, David says, is that he feels like it happened by chance. His parents had made sure Martin didn't go to a foster home; the caseworker they didn't like left the department; the plan to place their son with his brother fell through at the last minute, forcing the court to take a serious look at reunification. What if his parents had been unable to care for Martin? What if their original caseworker hadn't left? What if his brother's record had been flawless? "We got lucky," David says. "But luck should have never come into it."

He concedes, however, that the situation forced Tiffany to clean up and forced him to do it faster than he might have otherwise. He's no longer scared of having his kids turn out like him. "My morals, my values are really good. I'm not a dumb person. I see a lot more than most people, and if I can help them grow to a lot of the positives I have while avoiding the negative things, I think that would be great. Because I've made so many mistakes, it's going to be a whole lot easier for me to see them start to make mistakes and be able to intervene."

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